Another sunny day. I don’t have to work till late afternoon and my Scottish god-daughters and their dad won’t come off the ferry for another hour. I’m taking my time: shake off a nasty dream, open the window to bird songs, and go down to make tea. For my first meal, I count out five almonds and put them next to the teapot. Adjust the blinds to let more light come in, straighten the cushions in the meditation room, open the garden door to hear the splash of the fountain and the whining of my neighbour’s power drill.
As the kettle comes to a boil, I reach and … where did the almonds go? Gone. Presumed eaten. By whom? Being the only creature there, it must have been me who munched them down without recollection of having picked them up, tossed them into my mouth, chewed and swallowed them. All that’s left are tiny bits sticking between my teeth. Wake up!
Jan Chozen Bays is my primary Zen teacher. In Mindful Eating she writes that “[m]ost unbalanced relationships with food are caused by being unaware of heart hunger. No food can satisfy this form of hunger. To satisfy it we must lear how to nourish our hearts.”
Instead of going ahead and assign myself the task of eating the next five almonds one at a time, shewing each ten (or some other arbitrary number of) times and hope to become a ‘better eater’ (which by itself is a useful exercise but unlikely to yield any long-lasting behavior changes). Chozen’s words call me to notice the hunger that growls deep within — a hunger than no amount of almonds, however carefully chewed, can satisfy.
source: Bays, J.C. (2009). Mindful eating: a guide to rediscovering a healthy and joyful relationship with food. Boston: Shambala (with CD).